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SEC Ditching CBS, Hitching to Pretty Disney Princess Cart with ABC/ESPN

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Huge money deal will shape the next decade of SEC sports viewing.

Earlier today, news broke that an “announcement” from the SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was scheduled for 5 pm CST this evening. Rumor quickly abounded that COVID had forced the Commissioner’s hand in possibly taking drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus when it came to football and basketball team case numbers.

THEN, word spread that it may be related to the purchase of the media rights for SEC football and basketball by Disney, to be broadcast on the ABC/ESPN family of networks. That got legs, and then we finally got confirmation from a number of sources, with my favorite being the Zoom link for the media availability with Greg Sankey:

Anyway, here’s the press release —

Among that, some of the finer points are:

  • ABC/ESPN will take over the exclusive rights to premier SEC football and basketball events in the 2024 season and will last for the following decade.
  • ABC Saturday afternoon SEC football
  • ABC Saturday night SEC football (fewer Clemson or Ohio State games with Fowler and Herbstreit)
  • SEC Championship Game on ABC
  • Men’s basketball games more frequently on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2
  • Flexible scheduling that allows for start times to be determined further in advance. Now that ABC/ESPN doesn’t have to worry about what CBS is going to do, and there’s no intermingling and predicting going on, the schedule can be hammered out way in advance.
  • Non-conference games will have the ability to be broadcast on ESPN+ at the behest of the schools in order to set a more preferably start time. You remember Alabama whining about morning kickoffs against Kent State, well now they’d be able to put that game on ESPN+ and set kickoff in the evening to beat the September heat.

It was reported earlier that Disney is paying upward of $300M for this package with the SEC, as CBS was just paying $55M previously for the rights that they had with the game of the week and the championship games.

What this’ll do is make SEC football a little bit more of a one-stop shopping trip. You’ll know that it’s going to be on the ABC/ESPN family of networks, and that’s it. While CBS had its perks, the ABC/ESPN way of broadcasting has been perfected to a degree. For example, CBS’ commercial breaks usually fell under the ire of many fans, both at home and in the stadium. We’ve all sat in Jordan-Hare Stadium during an ad break that seems endless, and now that the red hat official controls the sign with the clock counting down out of commercials, you know how long CBS’ breaks can be.

Our lame duck TV partner brought about a broadcast format that went through more commercial breaks, and longer commercial breaks as well. While the ABC/ESPN format usually goes through 16 in-game breaks (labeled A through P), CBS would add another break per quarter, in addition to some end of quarter commercials lasting nearly four minutes. It breaks up the flow of the game, and it takes up your entire afternoon. When you end up with a four-hour game, it’s rough.

One unfortunate note here has to be the sad note that Disney will not be bringing along the CBS music. And while we all love the CBS theme music, there are plenty of alternatives. I, for one, LOVE the old 1990s ESPN College Football theme song.

Still, this won’t take effect until the fall 2024 football season, so we have more than three seasons left to spend with Brad and Gary. Whee!